This nighttime habit is as dangerous as heavy drinking

You know the risks of booze, so you're smart about it. You either drink very little... or you never touch the stuff.

But guess what?

You could face ALL the risks of heavy drinking and more -- even if you've never had a sip!

New research reveals the one bad habit that's just as dangerous as binge drinking, and I'm pretty sure this one's going to surprise you.

It's not cigarettes, prescription meds, junk food, or even an illicit drug habit.

It's poor sleep!

This one bad habit alone can leave lasting damage throughout your body over the long-term. But the biggest effects just might be in the brain, and the new study out of Canada reveals both short-term and long-term risks linked to missing out on sleep.

I don't know which one is more frightening.

Let's start with what just one night of short sleep will do to your brain, because I'm guessing most folks will be surprised by this. If you miss out even a little... if you have "one of those nights" where you get just five hours of sleep or less... you could face the same level of cognitive impairment as you might after five or six drinks.

That could lead to accidents on the road on in your workplace... problems with relationships... and even poor decisions.

If you've had a night of poor sleep, maybe you should avoid both driving and QVC!

But at least you can "cure" that problem easily enough. Go back to bed, and you'll feel better -- because the study finds a night of short sleep here and there won't do any long-term damage to your body.

When it happens regularly, that's another story.

The same report out of Canada finds that long-term sleep loss will damage your immune system -- exposing you to infection and illness -- and mess with your body's hormones so that your appetite goes haywire.

That leads to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease along with a higher risk of both heart attack and stroke.

And to cap it all off, missing out on sleep can lead to mood disorders like depression, too.

Now that you know what's at stake, it's time to do something about it.

First, take action to sleep better tonight. The "sleep hormone" melatonin can often do the trick, as can homeopathic medicines and herbal remedies such as chamomile.

And second, work closely with a doctor to find out why you're struggling to get the rest you need. Poor sleep is usually a warning sign of a larger issue. In older folks, it's often a hormonal issue.

If you're in the San Diego area, I can help you get to the bottom of your own sleep problems here at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine.

Not in the area? I'm also available for advice by phone. Call 855-DOC-MARK to schedule a consultation.

And don't forget to connect with me on Facebook!